Overnight Energy: Panel advances controversial Trump nominee | Ex-coal boss Blankenship to run for Senate | Dem commissioner joins energy regulator

Overnight Energy: Panel advances controversial Trump nominee | Ex-coal boss Blankenship to run for Senate | Dem commissioner joins energy regulator
© Texas Public Policy Foundation

TRUMP NOMINEES HEAD TO SENATE FLOOR: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday advanced the nomination of an outspoken climate skeptic to lead the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Senators voted 11-10 to send the nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White to the Senate floor. Members also advanced Andrew Wheeler, Trump's nominee to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in another party-line vote.

Hartnett White is a think tank official and former Texas environmental regulator who dismisses the science behind the influence of carbon emissions and other pollutants on the Earth's warming trend.

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Both parties criticized her nomination for CEQ during a contentious committee hearing earlier this month, and Democrats ripped into her -- and the Republicans who support her nomination -- before a vote on Wednesday.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDHS chief takes heat over Trump furor NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Democrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration MORE (D-Calif.) called the nomination process "morally bankrupt," while Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyEarly tax bill reality very different than Democratic rhetoric Senate GOP seeks to change rules for Trump picks Dem senators tear into Trump: Tax bill 'a very big Christmas gift from Trump to himself' MORE (D-Ore.) said the Hartnett White nomination was a "disservice."

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Overnight Energy: California regulators vote to close nuclear plant | Watchdog expands Pruitt travel probe | Washington state seeks exemption from offshore drilling plan Overnight Regulation: Fight erupts over gun export rules | WH meets advocates on prison reform | Officials move to allow Medicaid work requirements | New IRS guidance on taxes MORE (D-Del.) said Hartnett White is a nominee "whose views are extreme, whose words are staggeringly inappropriate, and who shows remarkable disrespect for science, the environmental laws on the books and the federal government."

"A nominee who can't follow the thread from carbon pollution to ocean warming to sea level rise, who imagines science that is not there and ignores science that is there, is a preposterous nominee," Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Trump, Kushner meet with advocates on prison reform Democrats search for Russians — any Russians — for collusion story MORE (D-R.I.) said.

Sens. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump’s infrastructure plan may slip to next month Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism Trump's infrastructure team to huddle with senators MORE (R-Wyo.) and Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeEPA's Pruitt: Bring back 'true environmentalism' Tax cut complete, hawks push for military increase Trump meets with oil-state GOP senators on ethanol mandate MORE (R-Okla.) defended her nomination, noting endorsements she has received from the Chamber of Commerce and former Department of Energy officials.

"We've had a lot of name-calling here and I'm sure that makes everybody on the left feel better," Inhofe said.

"We have people out there who are singing her praises, and you don't need to get down to the mud and name-call on these things."

Read more here.

 

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BLANKENSHIP JUMPS INTO WEST VIRGINIA SENATE RACE: A former coal company executive who was convicted for conspiracy to violate federal mine safety laws is running for the Senate in West Virginia.

Don Blankenship was CEO of Massey Energy Co. at the time of a 2010 disaster at its Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners. He was later convicted of charges stemming from the probe into the explosion.

Conrad Lucas, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party, confirmed Wednesday that Blankenship is running. Charleston, W.Va., television station WCHS first reported the news, saying Blankenship had filed paperwork for the race.

Blankenship will face West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsTrump feud puts pressure on Bannon candidates Trump breaks with Bannon in dramatic fashion W. Va. rep calls on Senate challenger to renounce Bannon's support MORE in the Republican primary.

If he wins the GOP nomination, he will face incumbent Democrat Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMcConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in MORE, who was governor at the time of the disaster and a leading figure in denouncing Blankenship. Blankenship, in turn, has charged that Manchin was central to a political campaign against him.

Blankenship is a high-profile figure in West Virginia, due largely to his leadership at Massey, the disaster, his conviction and his frequent claims that the conviction was purely political and he is innocent.

Read more here.

 

ENERGY REGULATOR SWEARS IN DEM: Democrat Richard Glick formally joined the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Wednesday, bringing the board one step closer to being fully staffed.

The Senate confirmed Glick and Republican Kevin McIntyre to FERC on Nov. 2, though neither were sworn in to the panel until Glick was formally added on Wednesday.

McIntyre, Trump's pick to lead the commission, has yet to join FERC, though acting Chairman Neil Chatterjee said Tuesday that it's "simply a matter of timing, prioritization, getting documents signed" before McIntyre is sworn in.

"There is no conspiracy here. There is no intentional delay or dragging things out to some nefarious end," Chatterjee told reporters Wednesday.

"People have to unwind their own professional obligations in their current jobs before they can transition over. Last week was Thanksgiving. I'm certain that both of the confirmed nominees wanted to spend time with their families."

Read more here.

 

NAVAJO GENERATING STATION GETS TEMPORARY LIFELINE: The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station has obtained the approval it needs to stay open through 2019.

The Salt River Project, an Arizona utility that partially owns the plant and is negotiating on behalf of the other owners, announced Wednesday that the federal Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs had completed their environmental review of the lease extension.

The plant's owners, which include Reclamation, lease the plant's land from the Navajo Nation. They had originally planned to close it this year, but the Trump administration and the Navajo Nation pushed for a renewal, and the other utilities involved agreed to it.

"A great deal of hard work from a number of dedicated individuals representing the Navajo Nation, the owners and the federal government made this important step possible," Mike Hummel, deputy general manager of the Salt River Project, which manages the plant, said in a statement.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY I: The House is scheduled to vote on a bill reviving a proposal to mine for precious metals in northern Minnesota.

The bill would undo Obama administration efforts to block a mining firm's proposed copper and nickel mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA).  

 

ON TAP THURSDAY II: David Bernhardt, the deputy secretary of the Interior Department, will testify before the House Appropriations Committee.

 

Rest of Thursday's agenda ...

Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeEPA's Pruitt: Bring back 'true environmentalism' Tax cut complete, hawks push for military increase Trump meets with oil-state GOP senators on ethanol mandate MORE (R-Okla.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle With religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again This week: Time running out for Congress to avoid shutdown MORE (R-Utah), and Rep. Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithHouse GOP chair blasts media for saying 's---hole' while reporting on Trump Issa retiring from Congress House Foreign Affairs chairman to retire MORE (R-Texas) will speak at a Heritage Foundation event on climate and energy policy.

FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee will speak at a Natural Gas Roundtable luncheon.

Two House Natural Resources subcommittees will hold separate hearings on a total of four bills.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION PAGE:

Three supporters urge the House to approve the Minnesota mining bill. 

Rice University Professor Bill Arnold analyzes the crude oil market.

 

AROUND THE WEB:

High Country News explores the different ways North Dakota has developed oil around state and national parks.

OPEC and Russia are closing in on a deal to extend oil production cuts, Reuters reports.

Donald van der Vaart, former secretary of North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality, quit the agency Wednesday after public fights with its Democratic leadership, the Raleigh News-Observer reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Wednesday's stories...

-Arizona coal plant to stay open through 2019

-NOAA nominee vows to leave family-run weather company

-Democratic commissioner sworn in to energy regulatory board

-Convicted ex-coal boss Blankenship to run for Senate

-Senate panel advances controversial environmental nominee

-Keystone pipeline spill blamed on damage from its construction

 

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